ECE Math

Basic math that is missing from the high-quality child care discussion.


Infants need one teacher for every four children.


One teacher’s salary at $15.00 per hour is $31,200 a year.
That is $7,800 per infant annually.


The federal government defines affordable care as care that costs no more than 7% of a family’s income.


Which means just to pay the infant teacher’s salary a family needs to make $111,428.


It’s actually worse that this:

In reality, staffing is the highest expense, but not the only expense. That doesn’t account for all the other expenses of running an early childhood program:

  • Rent, insurance, utilities, and classroom materials
  • Payroll taxes and other necessary employment costs
  • The gap between a full time teachers hours (40 hours) and the hours children are in care a week (45-50 hours)
  • Teacher’s lunch breaks, vacations, sick leave
  • Other benefits that increase cost: administrative, health insurance, and professional development

High-quality early childhood programs spend about 75% of their budget on teacher salaries.


All of these numbers should be 33% higher to represent all the administrative, facility, and supply costs.


When we take into consideration that a high-quality infant program operates at a ratio of one-to-three the costs dramatically increase. That means just three teachers need to pay the salary of the teacher. Which is $10,400 a year in tuition just for just a single teacher salary.


If you have two kids in care, all these numbers multiply.


Looking closer at teachers salaries:

Some will argue that the teachers salary rate offered here is too high. As minimum wages rise across the country we need to consider the reality of these increases on child care costs. Teachers deserve far more than $15 hourly and still many make less.


With a teacher salary of $10 per hour, below a living wage in most states, the infant care costs are still out of reach for many families. The cost of an infant teacher making $10 per hour with no other expenses is $5,200 per infant, which means to pay no more than 7% of their income on childcare the family would need to make $74,285 annually.


I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t offer one more set of numbers. The truth is massive brain development is happening in infancy and we should be paying infant teachers at least as well as their elementary school peers. At a ratio of one to four, a teacher making $41,000 would translate to $10,250 per child. Again, if we stick with the federal government’s definition of affordable care as care that costs no more than 7% of a family’s income, the family would need to make  $146,428 just to cover the teacher’s salary.


The gap between the cost of care and the funds families have available is vast.


  • The result is infants are in low-quality and unregulated environments.
  • Teachers are being massively underpaid.
  • Preschoolers tuition is subsidizing the infant care.
  • Families are paying far more for childcare than the recommended 7% of their salary.


The result, infants suffer. We can do better. Our youngest children deserve better.

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